A brother writes: “First Peter 3:18-22 stumps me. I just can’t understand that preaching to the spirits in prison. Do you have any clue to what Peter is referring?”
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Now Peter makes another connection between Noah and Peter’s first readers. There was a time when Noah was surrounded by mocking unbelievers, but then he was “saved by water” from that wicked world. The old world of unbelievers did not go through the Flood with Noah. They stayed on the other side of those waters.
In this same way, Peter writes in verse 21, Christian believers are “saved” from the unbelieving world by passing through the waters of baptism (see his same language in Acts 2:40). It no longer matters that the unbelieving world mocks and scoffs at the believer. The believer need not rely on the judgment rendered by the unbelieving world. In baptism, he or she has cried out to God for a clean conscience, based on what Jesus Christ did for sinners long ago. The baptized believer may live in light of God’s judgment — a verdict of divine acquital and approval, demonstrated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But this mighty resurrection of Jesus Christ was not the end, says verse 22, for God then exalted him to the heavenly position of honor, and made him Lord over all ranks of spirit-beings, including those which previously had opposed him. The persecuted believer is to remember all this and take courage. “Where is my hope of deliverance?” the believer asks. Remembering his or her baptism brings the answer to mind. Our hope is in Jesus Christ our Lord — Jesus who is victor over all his enemies, death and the grave! Our God, who delivered Noah and raised up Jesus, will again have the final word.